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Maps: Colouring in the Black Sea

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What do microscopic molecules and huge computer grids have in common? They both build up giant scientific databases of ecosystems around the World. But it is a tricky process. This is the story of how researchers around the Black Sea are struggling to get the bigger picture out of tiny details. On the shores of the Danube River there is an unusual team. Romanian and Ukranian scientists are embarking on a common research trip. Experts in computer modelling have teamed up with environmental engineers to come up with a precise picture of diverse environmental data in big rivers like the Danube or the Dnieper, but also in hundreds of small streams flowing to the Black Sea. The challenges were huge as Elham Rouhollahnejad an environmental engineer at the Eawag Institute explains: We used topographic maps to make our hydrological models. And sometimes those maps lacked resolution. In this case, for instance, this particular river is disconnected. It is the same water flow, but it looks like two different rivers. So we had to carefully, manually, correct it. Otherwise, our calculations on flow rates or water inputs would not be accurate. The effort is based on what is called Global Earth Observation, designed to use monitoring technologies to build up scientific databases.

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2011, Bogolyubov Institute for Theorethical Physics